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Tue 17th Nov 2015 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Scottish-based Bar Soba aiming to become UK-wide brand and build 30-strong estate in next three to five years: Scottish-based cocktail bar and pan-Asian street food restaurant concept Bar Soba is aiming to become a UK-wide brand and build a 30-strong estate in the next three to five years, Propel has learnt. The company, which opened its first site in Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, in 1999 following a successful pop-up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, currently has five sites – three in Glasgow and one each in Edinburgh and Leeds. But managing director Brad Stevens told Propel he is now ready to ramp up his expansion plans as he aims to build a UK-wide brand. The concept specialises in cocktails and pan-Asian street food where everything is made on-site from scratch. Stevens said he was looking at opening sites in cities such as Belfast, Liverpool and Manchester. He added he had also had approaches from Dubai to take the concept overseas. “While we’ve been going since 1999, it has only been since 2012 that we started expanding,” said Stevens. “We have invested in people, training and the product and the structure is now very much in place to grow. We are looking to open three sites in 2016 and ramp up the expansion from there. We will be looking to create a cluster of sites in the north and also go to London at some point. There’s a lot of companies that have expanded into Scotland but I can’t think of one that has started here and then gone south of the border.” Stevens added he expects the company to turnover £6m by the end of its financial year in April. All five sites so far have been self-funded but Stevens said he would look to either crowdfunding or the Business Growth Fund to help support Bar Soba’s expansion plans. He also plans to extend its flagship site in Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, by investing £300,000 and adding a central production kitchen with view to launching a cookery school. Bar Soba also hosts cocktail making classes in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The company opened its second site in Glasgow in Byres Road in January 2012 followed by Hanover Street in Edinburgh in December that year. It has opened two sites this year – Merchant City in Glasgow before heading south of the border to Merrion Street in Leeds in April. Stevens added: “After 16 years we know the concept works but now it’s time to really push on with our expansion.”

Industry News:

Propel and Elliotts partner for Advanced Marketing Masterclass: Propel is partnering leading sector public relations and marketing firm Elliotts for the inaugural Advanced Marketing Masterclass. The event takes place on Thursday, 14 January at One Moorgate Place in London. It will provide an insight into all aspects of marketing across the sector including how to develop and deliver effective digital initiatives and the best ways to recognise and tell a brand’s story to maximise its PR or social media potential. There will also be the latest insight into consumers’ behaviour to help companies develop marketing strategies around their customers as well as how to brief and work with an agency effectively. The event will feature contributions from Novus Leisure and Brazilian barbecue restaurant Cabana about some of the marketing initiatives they have used to improve results for their business. Elliotts strategy and development director James Hacon will also lead a panel discussion with marketing directors from leading brands. Tickets are priced at £295 for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 for non-ALMR members and are available by emailing Adam Dickinson on
Analysts – AB InBev may have to sell £7bn of beer brands as part of SABMiller takeover: Anheuser-Busch InBev could be forced to sell almost $7bn of beer brands to appease the concerns of regulators around the world as part of its takeover of SABMiller. The company has already agreed to offload its 58% stake in its MillerCoors US venture to pre-empt competition concerns. However, analysts at Berenberg believe AB InBev might also be forced to sell SABMiller’s Peroni and Grolsch brands in Britain and its stake in the Turkish brewer Efes, on top of its prized China interests, reports the Standard Times. AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, and its advisers are now starting to reach out to competition authorities around the world to gauge their attitude towards its takeover of SABMiller, which is the number two brewer behind AB InBev. According to analysts, the sale of SABMiller’s stake in its Chinese business might fetch $3.1bn, while Peroni and Grolsch could be worth $1bn in the UK, and the 24% stake in Efes may be valued at $1.25bn. A sale of AB InBev’s Interbrew Italia division and the brewer’s Dutch brands would likely raise $400m. SABMiller holds a 49% stake in Chinese business CR Snow – the producer of the world’s best-selling lager by volume – a shareholding that industry insiders believe AB InBev will be forced to offload. AB InBev last week unveiled a record $75bn in loans to fund the acquisition and Freeman & Co, a New York-based consultancy, estimates the financing would have netted $190m in fees. Meanwhile, Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein, estimates SABMiller boss Alan Clark will land a $65m windfall from shares and options if the takeover completes. In total, some $2.1bn will be shared among senior SABMiller managers and executives.

McDonald’s wins franchisee backing for two for $2 value deal: Franchisees of McDonald’s is the US have agreed to a new “McPick 2 for $2” value platform, paving the way for its introduction in January as part of a key element in the company turnaround, Nation’s Restaurant News has reported. The platform allows customers to pick any two items from a menu of four — the McDouble, the McChicken, small fries and mozzarella sticks — for $2. The price brings sandwiches back to the key $1 price point widely considered a key element in the company’s decade long run of success, albeit this time it’s in a bundled deal. This format of the McPick platform will initially run for about five weeks, from 4 January to 8 February, after which local markets will be able to extend the promotion. The company will back the promotion with a heavy marketing campaign.

New research – moderate coffee consumption good for health: Drinking three to five cups of coffee a day might help you live longer, according to new research. Moderate coffee consumption reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and Type 2 diabetes, scientists found. It also seems to lower the risk of suicide – but no association was seen with rates of cancer death. Whether or not the coffee drunk contained caffeine made no difference. The benefits are thought to be linked to other plant compounds in coffee besides the stimulant. Lead scientist Ming Ding, from the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in the US, said: “Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation. That could explain some of our findings. However, more studies are needed to investigate the biological mechanisms producing these effects.”

Company News:

Goodman Restaurants reports pre-tax profit nears £1m: Goodman Restaurants, which operates steak restaurants in Mayfair, the City of London and Canary Wharf, has reported turnover rose 5.6% to £12,281,886 in the 53 weeks to 4 January 2015, up from £11,502,353 the year before. Pre-tax profit more than doubled to £990,911, up from £346,640 the year before. The company stated: “Operations have again maintained market share in an intensely competitive environment. Cost efficiencies and controls have contributed to increased operating profits.”

Burger & Lobster reports turnover of £25m: Burger & Lobster has reported turnover rose to £25,164,592 in the 53 weeks to 4 January 2015, up from £17,753,147 the year before. Pre-tax profit dipped to £556,941 from £1,107,220 the year before after administrative costs climbed by circa £5.5m to £14,086,472. Capital expenditure increased to £6.2m from £1.45m as the company expanded into the regions. The company stated: “In 2014, the group has increased the momentum of opening new restaurants in London and the rest of the UK and turnover increased by 40% in the year. Management of costs continues to be a priority in order to maximise the return on investment. The group is in a sound financial position at the end of the year and is looking to double its number of restaurants over the next 12 months.”

La Tasca reports return to pre-tax profit in final year of trading before Casual Dining Group acquisition: La Tasca has reported a return to pre-tax profit in its final year of trading before being acquired by Casual Dining Group. The company recorded a pre-tax profit of £649,000 in the year ended 22 February 2015, compared to a loss of £1,743,000 the year before, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Turnover was down slightly to £44,718,000, compared to £44,954,000 the previous year. Like-for-like sales grew at its 41 sites in the UK for the first time in a number of years at 4.1% while there was also a 2.5% increase at its five US venues. La Tasca also exited the Company Voluntary Arrangement it entered into in 2012/13. The company stated: “During the period the company acquired one site from a third party and sold four sites to third parties. The total number of sites remaining open at the period end was 46 (23 February 2014: 49). Overall, revenue reduced by 0.52% (2014: 11.7%), however like-for-like sales in the UK grew for the first time in a number of years at the healthy rate of 4.1% (2014: -0.4%) allied to continued margin improvement and site cost control, with the result being site Ebitda improved by 17.2% (2014: 11.0%). The company exited the CVA, which was entered into in a prior period, in September 2014 with rents increasing on half of the properties back to normal rates. The US also saw an improvement in sales performance of 2.5% (2014: -5.5%) leading to an improvement in site Ebitda of 16.5% (2014: -48.0%). As a result of the much improved trading in the period the group delivered an operating profit of £588,000 (2014: loss of £1,018,000) before exceptional costs. The group delivered an operating profit of £747,000 (2014: loss of £460,000) after exceptional operating costs. Following on from the debt restructure in the previous period the inter-company debt created during the debt for equity swap and owed by subsidiary companies has been waived by the parent company La Tasca Holdings. This inter-company debt waiver has considerably strengthened the subsidiary company balance sheets and de-leveraged the businesses.” Casual Dining Group acquired La Tasca in August for a price between £20-£25m.

Amber Taverns steps up search for sites with Propel advert: Amber Taverns has stepped up its search for sites by advertising its requirements to Propel’s 12,000-plus database of readers. The company, which has sites across the north east and north west of England and south Wales, is looking for high street venues across those areas with a minimum ground floor trading area of 1,800 square foot. An area for a smoking area/beer garden is preferred. Due to expansion, Amber Taverns is also seeking management teams to run its pubs. Contact joint managing director Bryan Wardman at or with suitable sites.

Mitchells & Butlers shareholder launches new prototype of burrito brand: Mitchells & Butlers shareholder Joe Lewis has launched a new prototype of his Freebirds World Burrito brand in the US – the brand is operated by his Tavistock Leisure vehicle. The firm debuted a new prototype restaurant in The Colony, Texas, which features a “modern farmhouse aesthetic”. “We’ve used reclaimed wood and something of an industrial look,” Freebirds chief operating officer Bobby Shaw told Nation’s Restaurant News. “What we were going for is a modern farmhouse aesthetic. We felt like that translated into who we are, which is a premium brand.” The decor features cold-rolled steel surfaces, wood accent walls, concrete floors, brick and industrial piping for some bar-height and communal table seating. The 2,400 square foot space offers 44 seats and additional accommodations on an attached patio. “This is a little smaller than our older restaurants,” Shaw said. “This one is 2,400 square feet, which is the sweet spot for us. This type of environment is what guests are really looking for, and it really emphasises our scratch kitchen.” About half the square footage is devoted to food preparation and service areas, he added, and the Austin-based architectural firm opened the kitchen even more to the dining room than in older units.

Faucet Inn’s Neighbourhood brand one of seven operators confirmed for Southampton’s Cultural Quarter: Grosvenor Britain & Ireland has announced the commercial element of the Arts Complex in Southampton’s Cultural Quarter is now fully let. Five national brands will be opening at the scheme, alongside two local operators. The full list of operators is: Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Costa Coffee, Nando’s, The Stable, which is 51% owned by Fuller’s, Mettricks, Southampton’s specialist tea and coffee house, Neighbourhood, the brand operated by Faucet Inn that was first opened at London’s Olympic Park; and Tapas Barcelona, a 5,000 square foot restaurant from Delicious Dining, the south’s largest independently owned hospitality group. The majority of restaurants will open by the end of the year. Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Mettricks will open in early 2016, once the pedestrianised link between Guildhall Square and East Park reopens. Simon Armstrong, project director at Grosvenor, said: “Our ambition for this element of the new arts complex was to secure a variety of restaurants and cafes that would appeal to everyone living in, studying in, working in and visiting the Cultural Quarter. I’m very pleased that we are now 100% let. The operators who have chosen to open here complement each other really well and are a good fit with Southampton’s Cultural Quarter.” Savills advised Grosvenor on the lettings.

Market Town Taverns reports pre-tax profit fall due to head office restructure:
Yorkshire-based pub chain Market Town Taverns has reported a fall in pre-tax profit for the year ended 31 January 2015 because of a head office restructure. The company recorded a pre-tax profit of £224,013, compared to £334,089 the previous year, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Turnover increased slightly to £7,332,012, compared to £7,251,980 the year before. The company stated: “Gross profit margins in the year have been maintained. Food gross profit has decreased 0.5% due to the move to in-house catering at Symposium. Group labour costs have increased 2.2% over last year, but following a restructure of the head office this is expected to decrease next year. There have been some unavoidable inflationary increases in costs, but there is still room for progress to be made in this area going forwards. The profit before tax deficit of around £102,221 is inflated in comparative terms due to the costs associated with the head office reorganisation. At the year-end, the company’s cash position was positive, and has adequate cash resources for its future needs. Investment in existing sites is planned for six sites this year, whilst the freehold of the Old Bell is expected to be purchased during the first quarter of the new financial year. We completed the refurbishment of Coopers in Guiseley, along with a minor refurbishment of Arcadia in Leeds and a decorative upgrade at Brigantes in York. These works have had a positive impact on sales performance comparatives with consolidated sales performance showing a 1.2% increase against last year. The directors have a positive outlook for the forthcoming year, despite difficult economic conditions. Sales growth is expected in most taverns, whilst improvements in efficiencies of performance management, information technology and reporting should yield further benefits in gross profit margin and labour cost control in particular.”

Red Hot World Buffet trials expanded Japanese offer: Red Hot World Buffet is trialling an expanded Japanese offer this month. The “all you can choose” buffet chain is encouraging diners to sample new dishes such as tempura, chicken udon soup, ginger udon yakisoba, tepanyaki and much more. Paul Miller, group executive chef at Red Hot World Buffet, said: “Our sushi dishes have always proved to be extremely popular with our guests, so it made perfect sense to extend our Japanese offering. We’re always looking to showcase new flavours and dishes and if they prove popular, they could well be here to stay.” Red Hot World Buffet has six venues across the UK in Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, and Nottingham. The brand is opening on Christmas Day and Boxing Day with prices starting from £9.99.

Big Easy opens new £3.5m flagship site in Canary Wharf: Big Easy has opened its new £3.5m flagship Bar B.Q & Lobster Shack in Canary Wharf, creating 170 jobs. The 400-cover restaurant in Crossrail Place that has additional outside terraces, bars, take-out/retail and nightly live entertainment, has opening spanning 18 hours a day. Exclusive to the new site is an all-American breakfast served from 7am on weekdays and 9.30am at weekends, full afternoon tea offering with European and American cakes, and a takeaway shop and grab-and-go menu serving fresh lobster rolls, pulled pork sandwiches, cold-pressed juices, American candy and other treats. A “Rum Bar” and Lounge features over 100 rums, an extensive cocktail menu and casks of rum on tap. The “Captains Table” private dining room seats up to 26 people and has its own private terrace. The venue occupies an 11,000 square foot site, part of the top floor and roof terrace gardens of the new Norman Foster Crossrail Terminal. The bar display features over 500 bottles of whiskies and bourbons and has 14 different draft beers and house cocktails on tap. The site also has a 14-metre open kitchen and one of the UK’s largest pit rooms, housing three enormous two tonne US-built smokers. Big Easy founder Paul Corrett said: “This is an extremely exciting development for Big Easy with a round the clock offer. It’s our biggest site to date in a landmark that is already one of the most talked about new buildings in the capital. We are really proud of what we have created, not to mention the 170 new jobs we have generated.”

Douglas Jack – growing like-for-like sales is the key at Mitchells & Butlers:
Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued an ‘Add’ recommendation on Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) shares ahead of preliminary results on 24 November. He said: “Like-for-like sales were up 1.0% after 50 weeks, despite the company benefiting from soft comparatives of 0.6% over the full year. After quarter three, Ebit guidance was cut to circa £328m. With total sales up 7.0% (£2,108m), this would imply a circa 30bps reduction in margins to 15.6%. We expect like-for-like sales to have picked up slightly in October, resulting in forecasts being held. Like-for-like sales rose 1.0% (food 2.1%; drink -0.3%) over the first 50 weeks, in line with the pubs constituent of the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, in which M&B is a major part. M&B underperformed the pubs market by over 1% during July-August, but should have benefited from better recent trading conditions for pubs during October, when the Coffer Peach Business Tracker rose by 2.7%. Ebit margins should be down circa 30bps in 2015E, with margins up slightly in half two due to labour cost reduction and minor gross margin improvement. Over the first 50 weeks, 14 outlets opened and 48 sites were converted (of which 38 were Orchid sites). Returns on conversions had picked up (from 23%). The key challenge remains to improve the returns on leasehold expansion (from 18%). Ebit margins are 400-500bps below where they were in the early 2000’s. New chief executive Phil Urban needs to prioritise sales momentum without which it will be almost impossible for the company to grow margins against a backdrop of rising staff costs. M&B has a high quality managed estate, which is currently valued on a price-to-earnings ratio of 10x and an EV/Ebitda of 8.7x, or 7.6x if the pension deficit did not exist. We believe investors will have to continue to be patient if they are waiting for a positive catalyst (such as a resumption in dividends).”

JD Wetherspoon plans roof-top beer garden at Rainham pub acquired from Sarumdale administrator: JD Wetherspoon wants to turn a disused pub in Rainham (population: 12,482), acquired from the administrator of pub group Sarumdale, into a “real ale, food and wine establishment” complete with rooftop beer garden. The pub giant has submitted a planning application to Medway Council to bring The Railway in Station Road back into use, but the proposal has received several objections from those living near the premises. The design statement said the new roof would “shield any local residents”, while the more open aspects of the proposal are directed towards the railway line. A garden on the ground floor will be a mixture of paving bricks, slabs and artificial lawn with pots and planting beds. There will also be a smoking shelter. On the first floor, the outside seating area will have booth seating and potted plants secured behind a glass screen. JD Wetherspoon recently purchased the premises, which closed in 2012 after the owners Sarumdale pub group went bust. In 2013, the boarded-up building was sold to an unknown buyer by administrators Begbies Traynor. The pub won planning permission in 2009 to build four one-bedroom flats in the back garden, but this expired in December 2012.

SSP Group wins £500m Oslo Airport contract that will see Jamie Oliver make Norway debut: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group has won a £500m contract to operate 29 retail and food and beverage brands at Oslo Airport that will see Jamie Oliver make his Norway debut. SSP has been awarded deals for five years (for retail) and seven years (for food and beverage) for the outlets, which will open between 2016 and 2018. The brands will include Starbucks as well as “firsts” for Norway, including two concepts from Oliver – a bakery called Deli & Bakery by Jamie Oliver and Jamie’s Italian. Other brands include WB Samson, which, established in 1894, is Oslo’s oldest bakery and a number of bespoke concepts such as Aquavit Bar, where passengers can enjoy the famous Scandinavian potato-based liquor as well as beers. SSP Norway and Denmark managing director Morten Solberg Nilsen said: “SSP has been operating at Oslo since 1998, and we are delighted to be building on our relationship with the team here as the airport moves into a new era. Our offer has been designed to help the airport achieve its ambitions to create a ‘Gateway to Scandinavia’, and we are certain that this outstanding brand line-up will do much to further enhance the customer experience at Oslo Airport.”

Belushi and Bristol-based operator crowned victorious in Aviko breakfast competition: Food support manager for Beds and Bars Belushi’s brand Gustavo Galvoa and owner of The Gloucester Old Spot in Bristol Amy Devenish have been crowned victorious in food brand Aviko’s Great British Breakfast Competition. Galvoa triumphed in the Best Breakfast Bap category for the “Badass Breakfast Bap” while Devenish, scooped the top prize with “The Big One” in the Best Hot Breakfast group. To enter, chefs, caterers and operators were encouraged to share – in no more than 50 words – what it is that makes their breakfast great, with the champion of each category winning a weekend for two people in London with breakfast at The Wolseley. The “Baddass Breakfast Bap” includes two rashers of smoked back bacon, a fried egg, hash browns, pork sausages and homemade barbecue Jagermeister baked beans in a toasted brioche bun. “The Big One” uses locally sourced smoked back bacon, sausages and black pudding with vine tomatoes, garlic Portobello mushroom, hash browns, spinach, baked beans and a choice of poached, fried or scrambled eggs, as well as rosemary and smoked paprika potatoes. The competition forms part of Aviko’s Great British Breakfast campaign that highlights the opportunity the booming breakfast and brunch market brings to operators.

The ONE Group set to open Ibiza site: The ONE Group has signed of a licence agreement to open a STK in Ibiza. “We are thrilled to be announcing the expansion of our European footprint,” said Jonathan Segal, chief executive of The ONE Group. “This agreement provides us with the opportunity to introduce STK’s unique vibe dining experience to an island known for its unparalleled nightlife and entertainment options. As our first location in Spain, STK Ibiza joins a long list of projects in development during this transformative time for our company. The deal also underpins the company’s strategy of identifying opportunities that drive high margin, high return licensing revenue at low capital cost.” Terms of the agreement include a one-time licence fee as well as ongoing royalties based on sales from the restaurant. The ONE Group will work to identify a location for STK Ibiza with a targeted opening in 2017.

UK Starbucks franchisee 23.5 Degrees allocated new territorial rights, including 23 Greater London boroughs: Law firm Shoosmiths has advised the management team of 23.5 Degrees on the equity investment by Connection Capital and bank loan facilities from Royal Bank of Scotland totalling £15.3m to fund the creation of 16 new Starbucks stores over wider territories. 23.5 Degrees, which was Starbucks’ first franchisee globally, has been allocated a developmental territory including Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Essex and Dorset as well as 23 boroughs within the Greater London area. The company currently operates 13 stores with plans to announce further openings by the end of the year.

Restaurateur Des McDonald opens new bar and restaurant at York hotel: Restaurateur Des McDonald has opened a new restaurant and bar in York. McDonald, who is former head chef at the Ivy Restaurant, has conceived and developed the Chapter House bar and Refectory Kitchen & Terrace. It forms the cornerstone of the renovation scheme being carried out at The Royal York hotel by Starwood Capital following its acquisition of the site. York-born executive chef Nick Evans oversees the menus for the 161-cover dining room. McDonald said: “It’s been a great experience working with Nick and his team. They’ve worked hard to create a menu that is bursting with flavour.” The hotel renovation includes refurbishment of all 159 bedrooms and suites, the hotel lobby and the creation of a Garden Room looking out to York Minster.

Urban Leisure Group to open eighth site at end of month: London-based bar and restaurant operator Urban Leisure Group will open its eighth site at the end of the month. The company is launching Coin Laundry in Exmouth Market, which will focus on 1970s-inspired food and cocktails, on Monday, 30 November. The site will feature kitsch tableware, vintage pinballs, wooden floors and tiling and comfy sofas. Downstairs the basement will feel like a retro common room with old board games to play. The menu, which will be divided into morning, all day and bar snacks, will include lamb chops, rabbit balti pie and lamb faggots. Urban Leisure Group is also opening the Heist Bank in Paddington in January, offering wood-fired pizzas and local beers. It is also converting the former La Brocca restaurant in West Hampstead into a venue specialising in cocktails and pizza that will open in early 2016. The company opened its first site – Graphic in Soho – seven years ago.

Reopening of famous Deep Sea Restaurant in Dundee put back to next year: Dundee fishmonger and restaurateur Darren Spink has revealed the reopening of the city’s Deep Sea Restaurant, which is said to have served The Beatles and two James Bonds, has been put back to next year. Spink, who acquired the fish and chip eatery a year ago from long-time owners the Sterpaio family, initially thought the venue would be ready to open last month but it is now likely be next spring before the project is completed. Spink, who also runs The Tailend Restaurant and Fish Bar in St Andrews, told The Courier: “We’re looking at opening next year, probably in March. It’ll be a good time to open and will let us train up staff in our St Andrews shop and get into our stride before things get busy during the summer. There’s been a lot of work involved and it’s been quite time-consuming, but we’ll have a similar sort of capacity to the previous restaurant, around 60 people.” A Dundee institution for 77 years, Deep Sea customers have included famous actors appearing in the city, including Joanna Lumley, Sir Sean Connery and Richard Todd.

Carluccio’s launching festive menu and series of festive pop-up food shops today: Carluccio’s is launching its Christmas menu today (Tuesday, 17 November) along with a series of festive pop-up food shops across the country. The Menu Festivo, which is available until Monday, 4 January as two and three-course options, has starters including zuppa di zucca – roasted squash soup topped with pumpkin seeds, crème fraiche and home-baked focaccia. Mains feature truffle butter ribeye steak and risotto festivo while desserts include torta cioccolato and Christmas plum tart. The pop-up food shops are located across the country including London, Leicester and Glasgow.

Leisure park freehold set for auction with £2.35m guide price: The freehold of a site tenanted by three restaurants at Newham Leisure Park, Jenkins Lane, Essex, is to be auctioned by Allsop on Tuesday, 8 December with a £2.35m guide price. The three restaurants pay combined rent of £168,500 per annum. The Restaurant Group’s Frankie & Benny’s site pays annual rent of £81,500 per annum on a 25-year lease that began in 1997 and is a subject to a rent review every five years.

Independent restaurant Bluegrass BBQ Smokehouse to start expanding by opening second site in Reading: Independent restaurant Bluegrass BBQ Smokehouse is to start expanding by opening its second site in Reading. Owner Steve Brown, who launched the concept in High Wycombe, will open the new venue in a grade II-listed property in Gun Street next month. Bluegrass specialises in a “low and slow” American style of barbecuing serving ribs, burgers and chicken. Samantha Stimpson of Bluegrass BBQ Smokehouse told Get Reading: “A lot of our customers travel from far away to visit us, and we’ve had overwhelming requests to come here. We’ve always been big fans of Reading and love its cool, independent vibe. Our building on Gun Street, which sadly had fallen into disrepair, is ideal for us and our Bluegrass style; we are currently working hard to restore it to its former glory, exposing the beautiful beams and other features, which sadly had been covered for years.” Brown has competed in The Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ Championships in Tennessee, one of only a handful of Brits to do so.

St Austell Brewery opens 3,000-pint small batch brewery: St Austell Brewery has opened a small batch brewery to create its latest collection of innovative beers. The company will have a selection of the small batch beers available at this year’s Celtic Beer Festival that takes place in the cellars of St Austell Brewery on Saturday, 28 November. Taking inspiration from all corners of the world, St Austell Brewery will be producing everything from Belgian beer to Eden Project-inspired pints. St Austell Brewery brewing director Roger Ryman said: “All of our leading brands, including Tribute, Proper Job and Korev, started as experimental brews. With the small batch brewery we can produce more limited edition beers, some of which could be the new brands of the future.” One of the first beers brewed in the small batch brewery was a Belgian style dubbel beer called Cardinal Syn – a rich malty beer with some spicy characteristics. The small batch brewery aims to build on the success of the company’s previous micro-brewery but with the opportunity to brew 3,000 pints at any one time instead of the previous 600. The brewery will supply 35 St Austell Brewery pubs with the new styles while visitors to St Austell Brewery will also be able to see the creative beer making process first hand as the small batch brewery becomes part of the company’s enhanced visitor experience in 2016.

Plans submitted to reopen Carlisle Mood nightclub site: Plans have been drawn up for a new bar in the former Mood building on Botchergate, Carlisle, once operated by Herald Inns and Bars, which went into administration in 2008. Proposals would also see the neighbouring building that housed the old Time bar turned into another new nightspot, with the fresh ventures named Tequila and Mint. The move comes in the wake of the opening of another late-night bar on Botchergate, the centre of the city’s night-time economy. Bambu – described as a “secret bar and hidden disco” – opened two weekends ago. It is one of two ventures operated by GM Entertainment on Botchergate. Its other, House of Vodka bar and kitchen, opened four months ago. Together they employ more than 35 people. Chris Hedley, GM Entertainment’s general manager, said: “The more people we can all attract out to Botchergate the better. It can only be positive for the city. Since the House of Vodka opened, the impact it has had has been a pleasant surprise. We’ve been very, very busy on a Saturday night and we’ve seen a massive response to it. It’s attracting a mixed crowd, so we know it’s a venue offering something for everyone and it is great to see people of different ages and backgrounds mixing together.” Mood was once one of Carlisle’s most popular nightclubs. The building has, however, stood empty for years. Businessman Tahir Ali has applied for two premises licences for part of that building and the Time bar. The application states: “The licensable activities, which it is proposed to carry on at the premises, are: the provision of late night refreshment, regulated entertainment and the sale of alcohol by retail.”

Papa John’s joins Text Santa appeal: Papa John’s UK has joined ITV’s Text Santa appeal, which helps families in difficulty at Christmas. The company will support the campaign from Monday, 30 November with a number of fund-raising initiatives, including the donation of 50p from pizzas sold during the festive season and a nationwide celebration across its 300-plus stores by hosting pizza parties at the start of December. Papa John’s UK director of marketing Andrew Gallagher said: “Text Santa is a fantastic campaign that raises awareness of an important issue in a fun, friendly way. We’re delighted that Papa John’s has the opportunity to get involved and we’re looking forward to some amazing activities planned across our stores and at head office. The final quarter of the year is by far the busiest for the pizza delivery business and therefore this is perfect timing for us to raise as much money as possible for this amazing cause.” Text Santa is now in its fifth year and has so far raised over £21m for UK charities. This year it will support three charities, Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-A-Wish UK and Save the Children.

Suffolk pub freehold sells for £295,000: The freehold of The Queens Head in the east Suffolk village of Bramfield has been sold off an asking price of £295,000. The property, marketed by agent Fleurets, has been bought by Barsham Securities. The Queen’s Head, which is the only pub is the village, has 16th and 17th century origins and is heavily timbered throughout. It features a lounge bar with exposed timbers, a high vaulted ceiling and a large exposed inglenook fireplace, along with a further lounge bar and a dining room. There are three-bedroom living quarters on the first floor while the terraced garden has seating for more than 70 customers. A spokesman for Barsham Securities said: “We will be initially undertaking some refurbishment to the building and kitchen modernisation to enable an ingoing tenant the best possible chance of success retaining a village public house in Bramfield.”

Preston entrepreneur to open board game cafe concept on Thursday:
New board game cafe concept Dice and Donuts will open in Preston on Thursday (19 November). The business is the brainchild of entrepreneur Millie Lavelle, a self- confessed “geek” whose love of board games and a desire to bring people together sparked the idea to launch a specialist cafe. She has taken a two-year lease on a unit in Butler Street in the city centre. Lavelle secured start-up funding after winning the Preston Business Improvement District “Guild Merchant” competition earlier this year, supplemented by crowdfunding from 220 investors who have all donated money to help get the business off the ground. Visitors will have the choice of about 200 board games to play while enjoying a selection of cakes, sandwiches, hot and cold drinks and, of course, donuts. Lavelle told the Lancashire Evening Post: “This type of social gathering is well known in the Far East where people often come together to play board games, but it’s a fairly new concept in the UK with only a few similar establishments elsewhere in the country.”
ALMR National Restaurant Association Study Tour to Chicago opens for bookings: The Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2016 Chicago Study Tour is now open for bookings. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training and Sky, takes place between Thursday, 19 May and Monday, 23 May 2016. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions at the NRA show. It also involves two tours of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show combined with our tour of Chicago is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To get more information or to book, email

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